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Voice, Swallowing and other Throat Disorders

We often take a healthy throat for granted until our ability to speak, swallow or breathe is impaired. Multiple ailments can affect your throat and interfere with school, work and your overall quality of life. Sore throat or hoarseness lasting more than 2 weeks should be evaluated by your primary care physician. Should your symptoms last more than 4 weeks, an Otolaryngology (ENT) evaluation is recommended to rule out serious conditions of the throat. Whether you have trouble swallowing, persistent throat pain, chronic lump in the throat, swollen tonsils, hoarseness or a worrisome “spot” in the back of your throat, our physicians use their skill and advanced techniques to diagnose your problem, educate you on the condition and recommend treatment to get you back on track.

Evaluation & Management of Hoarseness and Other Voice Disorders

General Information About The Voice

Voice (or vocalization) is the sound produced by humans and other vertebrates using the lungs and the vocal folds in the larynx, or voice box. Voice is not always produced as speech, however. Infants babble and coo; animals bark, moo, whinny, growl, and meow; and adult humans laugh, sing, and cry. Voice is generated by airflow from the lungs as the vocal folds are brought close together. When air is pushed past the vocal folds with sufficient pressure, the vocal folds vibrate. If the vocal folds in the larynx did not vibrate normally, speech could only be produced as a whisper. Your voice is as unique as your fingerprint. It helps define your personality, mood, and health.

Approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble using their voices. Disorders of the voice involve problems with pitch, loudness, and quality. Pitch is the highness or lowness of a sound based on the frequency of the sound waves. Loudness is the perceived volume (or amplitude) of the sound, while quality refers to the character or distinctive attributes of a sound. Many people who have normal speaking skills have great difficulty communicating when their vocal apparatus fails. This can occur if the nerves controlling the larynx are impaired because of an accident, a surgical procedure, a viral infection, or cancer.

Medical Treatment of Laryngeal and Voice Disorders

Throat Disorders

Your throat is a tube that carries food to your esophagus and air to your windpipe and larynx. The technical name for throat is pharynx.

Throat problems are common. You've probably had a sore throat The cause is usually a viral infection, but other causes include allergies, infection with strep bacteria or the upward movement of stomach acids into the esophagus, called gastric reflux.

Other problems that affect the throat include

  • Tonsillitis - an infection in the tonsils
  • Pharyngitis - inflammation of the pharynx
  • Cancers

Most throat problems are minor and go away on their own. Treatments, when needed, depend on the problem.

Voice Disorders

Voice is the sound made by air passing from your lungs through your larynx, or voice box. In your larynx are your vocal cords, two bands of muscle that vibrate to make sound. For most of us, our voices play a big part in who we are, what we do and how we communicate. Like fingerprints, each person's voice is unique.

Many things we do can injure our vocal cords. Talking too much, screaming, constantly clearing your throat or smoking can make you hoarse. These can also lead to problems such as nodules, polyps and sores on the vocal cords.

Other causes of voice disorders include infections, upward movement of stomach acids into the throat, growths due to a virus, cancer and diseases that paralyze the vocal cords. Treatment for voice disorders varies depending on the cause. Most voice problems can be successfully treated when diagnosed early.

Laryngoscopy and Microlaryngeal Surgery

Laryngoscopy and microlaryngeal surgery are performed to address disorders of the larynx (voice box) and hypopharynx (lowest portion of the throat) . These procedures can biopsy, remove or augment abnormal areas in the throat. Under general anesthesia, a scope is gently inserted into the throat through the mouth. A microscope and long, fine instruments are used to perform the surgery. Laryngoscopy and microlaryngeal surgery are generally performed on an outpatient basis. If you have medical conditions such as sleep apnea or bleeding disorders your surgeon may insist that you spend one night in the hospital for observation. Hospital admission may be required if excess bleeding or swelling are encountered during the procedure.

Laryngoscopy and Microlaryngeal Surgery Post Operative Instructions

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